When we started our first time of thanksgiving in 2002 we met with 5 positive friends and their families who met with us at the Home of Faith Church in Subashnagar. A few months later we asked one of the children who had attended when they last ate an egg. They told us that it was at our Christmas meeting.
Amazingly, those children were with us this year. Their mother died in 2003, and they have now transitioned to their teenaged years being looked after by their grandparents.
We had over 200 of our friends, their family members and our JSK staff and volunteers together on the 17th of December. The event was kindly hosted by the Covenant Blessings Church. It was truly a time to thank God for the great things that He has done.
The Jeevan Sahara Kendra staff put on an excellent drama – a ‘reality TV’ style expose of how two different families lived out the Christmas story (or did not). The ‘hidden cameras’ caught one family getting ready for the dance party – and another preparing to welcome a widow with HIV into their home. Lots of laughs – and the message hit home too!
We were blessed to have Bro. Oliver Ammana share the main message. It was simple and direct. We need to understand Jesus – but not just know about Him – but to experience Him, to think and dwell upon Him, to live Him out in our lives.
Oliver challenged young and old with a simple parable about a boy who bought an umbrella ('a magic water-protecting stick')- but found it to be of no use to him - until he learned how to use it correctly.
As we came to the time of testimonies, I had the privilege of looking out at the crowd and was so touched by what I saw. A sea of faces. Each person known at various levels. Each one touched by HIV in some way. Each one visited by our staff and church volunteers. Each prayed for by people near and far. So many of whom in which we see the amazing work of God having taken place.
The testimonies bore the theme of our meeting: Great is thy Faithfulness. We had Mrs. Laila, a lady who sells dry fish talk about how she had come to God in her time of need – and how He has never failed her. This year, after much prayer, her drunkard son has stopped drinking for which she praised God.
We had Mr. Shrishti, whose previous child had died just before it was to be born. This year he and his wife were bathed in prayer as the next child developed and was born. After birth the child did not cry – a deeply worrying sign. More prayers. The child started to breath normally. We were so glad to see the miracle child with us.
Then there was Mrs. Karla. A prostitute who has just come out of the trade she knew that she had HIV some years ago. But her brother told her that it was nothing to worry about. As she shared her story tears flowed freely. Sorrow at finding out that she had been lied to and that her body was now broken and worn out. Joy at knowing that people had cared for her enough to bring her out of the trade. There were many moist eyes as Sister Lata prayed for this dear sister of ours.
And so it went on – story after story – all telling of how good God has been to us all.
Then it was time for some snacks. The JSK staff and volunteers served the crowd and also gave a gift to each family. We were blessed this year to have the whole Thanksgiving time supported by gifts from local church members and a prayer partner from the gulf. What an encouragement to know that God’s people are there and want to keep blessing those with HIV.
And so we move into 2009 – thankful for what God has done – and hopeful for what He is going to do! Our meeting with our positive friends was a reminder – and a challenge as we know that God is going to continue to do His good work in the lives of our brothers and sisters.